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Defender's Guide to Science and Creationism
Assertion: Evolution was the basis for the Holocaust.

Mark I. Vuletic

Analysis

I. The assertion fasely presupposes that evolution was the basis for Nazism.

One cannot blame acceptance of evolution for the Holocaust unless one takes evolution to be the basis for Nazism. However, as I have explained elsewhere in this guide, evolution clearly was not the basis for Nazism.

 

II. How Christianity helped set the stage for the Holocaust

Because most of those who would blame evolution for the Holocaust are fundamentalist Christians, it might be helpful to point out how Christian anti-Semitism actually helped set the stage for the Holocaust:

[1] For century after century, the Christian church had designated the people to be despised: religious believers called Jews, the "Christ-killers," the "enemies of God." All the religious massacres [of Jews] of 900 years—by Crusaders pursuing infidels, by inquisitors hunting backsliders, by superstitious mobs fearing tales of child-sacrificing, host-nailing, and well-poisoning—branded Jews as accursed. When popes ordered Jews to wear badges and live in ghettos—or when they were expelled entirely—it told the populace that these pariahs were unfit to live among decent folk. Passion plays depicting Jews as cruel mockers of Christ, and cathedral paintings of the evil non-Christians, fanned hatred of those the church called "the perfidious Jews."

Thus, when Adolf Hitler needed a scapegoat group to rally the discontented majority to his cause and catapult himself to power, natural victims clearly marked by the church were at his disposal. The Christian public, not only in Germany, but also throughout Europe, was predisposed to receive the Nazi message of hatred. (Haught 1990:157-158)

[2] The Holocaust was, of course, the bitter fruit of long centuries of Christian teaching about the Jewish people. (Dr. Franklin Little, chairman of the Department of Religion at Temple University, as quoted in Haught 1990:158)

[3] [The Holocaust] could not have been done had not the name of God been used for centuries to preach hatred of the Other, the Jews. (A. M. Rosenthal, editor of the New York Times, as quoted in Haught 1990:158)

[4] [The Nazis] are inconceivable apart from this Christian tradition [of hostility to the Jews]. Hitler's pogrom, for all its distinctiveness, is the zenith of a long Christian heritage of teaching and practice against Jews. (Clark Williamson, theologian at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, as quoted in Haught 1990:159)

[5] [The Nazis] did not invent a new villain...They took over the 2,000-year-old tradition of the Jew as villain...The roots of the death camps must be sought in the mythic structure of Christianity. (Richard Reubenstein, theologian, as quoted in Haught 1990:160)

[6] Everything Hitler did to the Jews, all the horrible, unspeakable misdeeds, had already been done to the smitten people before by the Christian churches...The isolation of Jews into ghetto camps, the wearing of the yellow spot, the burning of Jewish books, and finally the burning of the people—Hitler learned it all from the church. However, the church burned Jewish women and children alive, while Hitler granted them a quicker death, choking them first with gas. (Dagobert Runes, historian, as quoted in Haught 1990:163)

[7] The Holocaust was made possible by the continued denigration of Jews over many centuries, by professed Christians of Central Europe. (Christian philosopher Richard Swinburne, in Swinburne 1998:107).

Let me be clear about what the point of these quotes is. I am not impugning Christianity as a whole. I am not claiming that Christianity is fully responsible, or even mostly responsible, for the Holocaust. I am not ignoring the many Christians who risked their lives and often died alongside their non-Christian brethren in opposing the tyranny of Nazism. I am explaining that there is a far stronger connection between Christian anti-Semitism and the Holocaust than there is between evolution and the Holocaust. Whether or not such Christian anti-Semitism was based on a distortion of true Christianity is a question for theologians to debate, but it should be clear enough that not even an attitude of love and reverence towards Jesus Christ, much less acceptance of the doctrines of the creationists, automatically purified any heart of anti-Semitism and the will to murder; in fact, these beliefs often exacerbated hatred of the Jews. As such, it is simply out of the question to assert that the Holocaust was the logical consequence of belief in evolution.

References

Haught JA. 1990. Holy Horrors: An Illustrated History of Religious Murder and Madness. Buffalo: Prometheus.

Swinburne R. 1998. Providence and the Problem of Evil. Oxford: Clarendon.

Last updated: 5 Jul 2015

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